“Whoso eateth my flesh, and drinketh my blood, hath eternal life; and I will raise him up at the last day.
“For my flesh is meat indeed, and my blood is drink indeed.” – John 6:54, 55
These words are very familiar to us, as they occur in our Communion service. When the Lord spoke them, it is recorded, “Many therefore of his disciples, when they had heard this, said, This is an hard saying; who can hear it?” They apprehended all the Lord’s sayings naturally, and in this case objected to the Lord’s terms because they were natural. And it is recorded further, “From that time many of his disciples went back, and walked no more with him.”
Today, while no one believes that it is literally intended that one be washed in the blood of the Lord to be cleansed from sin, many still turn away from the churches because they are repelled by the emphasis put on such natural phrases. And many in the churches, by interpreting them to mean that the Lord by shedding His blood on the cross paid the penalty due to man for all his sins, continue in their sins with the assurance that if they “confess Christ” they are saved.
What does it really mean to be “saved by the blood of the Lamb?”
In the Scriptures the word “blood” is used more than four hundred times, which testifies to the importance which this fluid holds in the Bible story. Blood is used in the ratification of covenants. Miraculous and apparently contradictory powers of cleansing the soul are attributed to it. The blood of the paschal lamb, sprinkled on the lintels and doorposts of their houses, saved the children of Israel from the destroying angel who slew the first-born of the Egyptians. The shedding of blood stands as the sum and type of all wickedness. The most precise directions were given by the Lord Himself in regard to the use of blood in the sacrifices. It was sprinkled upon the people and upon the altar in solemn covenants, and is called “the blood of the covenant.” It is declared that we are redeemed and washed from our sins by the blood of Christ, and He declared that His blood “is drink indeed,” and that unless we eat His flesh and drink His blood we have no life in us.
There is a correspondence between all things in nature and things of the spirit. The blood contains all the substances which enter into the human body. By means of it the body is formed, and this formation or creation is a perpetual one. The human body is not a fixed and stable structure like a tree or a stone. Its substances are constantly passing away and are being constantly renewed. In this work of holding our bodies in life the blood performs a double use, that of repairing the body and that of carrying away the waste substances: a creating or nourishing and a cleansing office.
Blood is the natural correspondent and representative of truth. Truth performs this same use for the spiritual body or mind. Truth bears the same relation to man’s spiritual body and to all that he is or can be as a spiritual being that the blood bears to the material body and to all its powers and functions.
But we note that the Jews were forbidden under the most severe penalties to eat blood. We are never to consider the truth as our own. We know that all good things can be abused and so turned into evil. So in the Word we also read that the waters of Egypt were turned into blood. When we look to our own minds for the truth, all our natural knowledges are perverted. When it is said that the moon would become blood, it means that all the truths of faith would be falsified. And when the Lord is pictured as clothed with a vesture dipped in blood, it represents the Word in its letter to which violence had been done. So in this sense “blood” is the symbol of all falsity arising particularly from hatred in the heart.
The blood of the Lord, however, is the symbol of the Divine truth. That is why blood occupies such a conspicuous place in the Sacred Scriptures, which are a revelation of the Divine truth to men. “By the Word of the Lord were the heavens made.” It is because of this correspondence that the Lord directed the children of Israel to sprinkle the blood of the paschal lamb on the thresholds and doorposts of their houses. It represented the application of Divine truth to their minds. No destroying angel can ever enter the soul or even touch it when that soul is sustained by the Divine truth, when every entrance or door is guarded by it, and when every thought and affection is imbued with it. What a striking and beautiful representation of the protecting power of Divine truth when man seems in a condition of bondage to the false and evil! It is only by means of the Divine truth that sin with its consequences can be averted.
In this representation of Divine truth by blood we see the reason why such frequent use was made of it in sacrifices. In the consecration of Aaron and his sons the altar was to be anointed with the blood of the bullocks and rams, and Moses was to put of the blood on the right ear of Aaron and upon the tip of the right ear of his sons, and upon the great toe of the right foot. All the Jewish sacrifices and forms of worship were representative. The Lord prescribed them with such minuteness that spiritual principles might have an exact correspondent and representative in natural things. They were spiritual truths in natural forms. If blood represents truth, the application of it to Aaron and his sons and to the altar, and the sprinkling of it upon their garments represents the application of truth to the various faculties of their minds represented by the organs of the body to which it was applied. To become a true servant of the Lord one must hear and obey the truth; it must enter his ears, he must do it, his fingers must be employed in its service, he must walk in its ways, it must form his path and direct his feet, he must be consecrated by it.
Blood was employed in ratifying covenants. And Moses “took the book of the covenant, and read in the audience of the people: and they said, All that the Lord hath said will we do, and be obedient. And Moses took the blood, and sprinkled it on the people, and said, Behold the blood of the covenant, which the Lord hath made with you concerning all these words.” A covenant between two parties is always made according to truths or principles which both acknowledge. The law is called a covenant. Moses read to the people from “the book of the covenant.” He declared to them the grounds on which the people and the Lord could come together. The people on their part said, “All that the Lord hath said will we do and be obedient.” A covenant is always made by means of truth. Human minds approach one another and come into communion with each other by means of truth. Truth shows their mutual relations and determines them.
This is a universal law. It applies to man’s relation to the Lord as fully as to his relations to men. The Lord reveals Himself to men by means of His truth. The Word was given to man for the purpose of instructing him in the truth, of revealing to him his relations to the Lord, in this way becoming a covenant, a bond of union between him and the Lord. There is nothing arbitrary in the use of blood to sanction a covenant between man and the Lord. It is simply the expression of that covenant in material forms, in the language of nature, which is infinitely more complete than any other form of expression could be. It is a covenant not of death, but of life, which the blood by its nature represents.
This is why it is said that we are washed, redeemed, and saved by the blood of Christ. Blood is the symbol of truth. The Lord is the truth; He was the Word made flesh. The blood is the great purifier and restorer of the body. So it is a perfect representative of the service which the Divine truth renders us. False principles and evil affections are not life-giving, for they destroy the soul. They are removed by Divine truth. They cannot be removed in any other way.
When, therefore, it is said, “The Lord hath washed us in his own blood,” which is Divine truth, we see that a literal fact is stated. It is just as real and just as much a matter of fact as that our bodies are cleansed by the blood which courses through them. We are redeemed by the Lord’s blood. But this washing is not effected in any vicarious way. Redemption consists in being rescued from the power of our spiritual enemies. Divine truth redeems us from error. It brings the presence of the Lord into our souls. So He said that we must drink His blood or we can have no life in us. “His blood is drink indeed.” To drink His blood is to receive the Divine truth into our minds, and to incorporate it into our spiritual bodies. Containing the essential substance of which our souls are formed, it supplies all the elements necessary to their nourishment and growth into heavenly beauty and strength.
So when we read, “To him that loved us, and washed us from our sins in his own blood” we know that the Word is speaking of Him who from love and mercy regenerates and saves men by means of Divine truths. “Whoso eateth my flesh, and drinketh my blood, hath eternal life; and I will raise him up at the last day. For my flesh is meat indeed, and my blood is drink indeed.”